Cost Remains Critical For Indian LTE Adoption

The Indian telecommunications market has only relatively recently started seeing 4G LTE network support with Indian carrier, Airtel, trailing the newer technology in Mumbai. Because the network has not been readily available, there are only a relatively few handsets being sold into to the market supporting LTE but the number is rapidly climbing. Furthermore, inexpensive devices supporting LTE are being introduced all the time such as the 2015 generation Motorola Moto E (showing above), the Xiaomi Mi 4i and the Yu Yuphoria. These three devices share more than their lower price tags and LTE chipsets, because inside them beats a Qualcomm Snapdragon System-on-Chip (SoC). Indeed, between January and March 2015, 2.2 million devices shipped to India and of these, over 80% contained Qualcomm chipsets.

There remain potential barriers to entry - the Indian carriers need to ensure that LTE is priced favourable in order to support its adoption, which is something carriers across the world have faced. India's Airtel carrier is currently trailing LTE technology at the same price as 3G technology and this will drive support: customers don't mind paying the same for more and ultimately, this will increase data usage and so could increase carrier revenue. Another important factor is the price of Indian handsets supporting LTE, which has quickly dropped: it's possible to buy a 4G LTE-ready device for Rs. 6,999 (about $110) and it took much longer for the price of a 3G device to drop to this level during the migration from 2G to 3G technology. Qualcomm's Head-Services of India and South Asia, Dinesh Prasad, talked to the source website about how the LTE bands used in China and India are similar, which means those Chinese handsets supporting LTE are effectively ready to go with the Indian carriers. He said this on the matter: "...that 3G to 4G is going to be like GPRS to EDGE, many people won't even notice the change."

Dinesh also talked about how he and Qualcomm see the 4G LTE market shaping up and what will drive the adoption of the higher performance network technology. His answer was that it would be increasing adoption of video technology: "The most obvious use case is definitely video. Video latency has long been a problem, and with 4G that won't be the case. A fatter pipe will also lead to better content - from full-HD videos to 4K. And then it becomes about more than the network, the handsets also have to support playback, there's a whole ecosystem so we've been working across the board with the networks and the OEMs." The point here is that not only do networks need to support high data transfer speeds but customers will expect their devices to support the higher quality video and here Dinesh clearly has a motive to encourage customers to buy more and more powerful devices, capable of displaying higher and higher resolutions, powered by Qualcomm chipsets.

Whilst it remains to be seen if there is much demand for 4K resolution smartphone or tablet screens that can benefit from the high speed LTE networks that could be built, it appears that the Indian market is already shaping up to be ready for the technology. The Indian carriers may have learned from the earlier adopters of LTE technology across the world. They should be able to quickly implement VoLTE, short for Voice Over LTE. This is a technology that enables voice calls over the higher speed networks, which do not support voice as standard. As LTE networks are much more efficient at handling data compared with 3G and especially 2G networks, this should drive down costs. However, VoLTE technology requires a good, consistent LTE network to avoid call drops and customer dissatisfaction. Many carriers run 2G, 3G and LTE networks and have to deploy a complicated series of call handover technologies in order to manage a VoLTE system.

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About the Author
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David Steele

Senior Staff Writer
I grew up with 8-bit computers and moved into PDAs in my professional life, using a number of devices from early Windows CE clamshells and later. Today, my main devices are a Nexus 5X, a Sony Xperia Z Tablet and a coffee cup.
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